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A guide to buying used laptops and computers

Laptops and computers can be expensive and when several family members each require one, the costs can really add up.

Here are our top tips for buying a used device. This will help take some pressure off the pocketbook as well as help keep still useful electronics out of the landfill. Conscious consumerism all round.

Is it stolen?

Ask the seller for the serial number of the device in advance and contact local police to see if it is something that has been reported stolen. If the seller refuses, do not go through with the purchase.

Make sure when you test the laptop or computer that the serial number matches the one that was given to you.

On testing, if it is password protected, make sure the owner knows the password to access it.

We also recommend buyers ask for a piece of ID from the seller and make sure those details match the ones given in correspondence.


Do not buy any electronic device unless the seller let’s you test it first. If it doesn’t turn on, step away pronto.

Battery power 

Make sure the battery is working and check the power level to get an idea of how long it will last. Batteries can be really expensive, so buying a laptop without a working battery, or one that has a short lifespan could become costly.

How to test battery power: 

Turn the computer on without it being plugged in and hover over the battery icon (near the clock). It will tell you how much charge the battery has and roughly how long that will last. At a full charge, most laptops should last for at least a couple of hours on battery power.

Working wireless

When you test the device, if the seller has a wireless network, make sure you can detect it and connect to it. This will make sure the wireless card isn’t broken.

A lot of laptops will have a little light that goes on near the power light as well, that indicates that wireless is enabled. There will also be a wireless symbol.

Price: what to expect

Check the regular retail price of the model. Often when laptops are discontinued, retail stores sell them at low clearance prices to move them off shelves.

Find the lowest clearance price for the model and then expect to pay between a quarter and half of that for a used device.


Type the model’s details into Google alongside the word “reviews,” this will give you an idea of what owners of the device think of its quality and usability.

Quick summary

  • Take steps to make sure the device isn’t stolen
  • Confirm that it turns on
  • Check that the battery has a good charge
  • Check that the wireless works
  • Make sure it isn’t visibly damaged (if the screen is damaged it will be obvious immediately when you turn it on)
  • Do your research to ensure the best price
Take a moment to read our Guide to Shopping Safely Online which shares more tips for buying used goods.

Useful links:

Computers on your local Used site




Chatter from the UsedHQ. We're the number one Canadian online classifieds, passionate about keeping items out of landfills, preserving unique curiosities, crafting, upcycling, anything vintage and SAVING MONEY!

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